What Happened After the Chicken-Pox Vaccine?

In the COVID era, the success of the varicella vaccine in the nineties is staggering to contemplate.

A vaccine for varicella received full approval from the FDA in 1995, and within a decade forty states and DC added varicella as a required immunization for enrollment in public elementary schools. Today all fifty states enforce this mandate. Near-universal mandatory immunization against chicken pox virtually eliminated the disease in the space of a generation.

This past October, a coronavirus vaccine for children aged five to eleven received emergency-use authorization from the FDA; since then, a little more than 18% of eligible children in the U.S. have received the two shots required for vaccination [....] across large swaths of the U.S. -- including in states where COVID-vaccine mandates for state employees and health-care workers are banned -- any large-scale immunization effort is a nonstarter. It's also increasingly likely that existing vaccine mandates will collapse. [...]

Ted Cruz stated, "COVID policies should be based on science and common sense, not the hysterical demands of radical liberal activists and union bosses who have no interest in what's best for our children.") [...]

Having had chicken pox places you in a specific before-time, the way that the smallpox-vaccine scar on my father's upper arm does for him. Perhaps it's only natural to long, a little, for the before-time of chicken pox, when the question was whether we would be able to wipe out a disease and not, once we had the capability, whether we would choose to do it.

Previously, previously, previously.

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11 Responses:

  1. Amanda Jameson says:

    Chicken pox vaccine is possibly not a great counter-example as there seem to be reasonable arguments against mass vaccination.

    Despite the UK's very sensible and comprehensive national vaccination programme, chicken pox is not one of those included (except for the particularly vulnerable). It's felt that the benefits of having poxy children running around the place are greater in preventing cases of shingles in adults than the costs to the children.

    NHS vaccination website

    Of course, if all the children were vaccinated then became adults they wouldn't be able to get shingles anyway because they'd never have had chicken pox...

    • Eric garner says:

      And which arguments would those be?

      • jwz says:

        They mentioned some of the arguments in the linked article. They are not, in my opinion, good arguments. And fortunately they eventually lost out.

        Notably, none of the arguments involved Bill Gates putting 5G tentacles into my microchips.

        • CSL3 says:

          Shit like the "every kid should just get chickenpox" argument (I got it when I was 4) fall apart when you replace "chickenpox" with damn-near any other ailment.

          Try it with malaria and see that the only thing close to herd immunity with that disease is sickle cell anemia, which is... not fun, malaria immunity or not. (And given that sickle cell almost directly targets people of African descent, it's yet another area where major medicine leaves behind Black people.)

      • genewitch says:

        The reasonable arguments are "exposure to chicken pox via your grandchildren may delay shingles";

        however, i think the current way of thinking goes:

        yes, some adults will have to suffer shingles because they were born before vaccinations, and were exposed to or caught chickenpox when they were younger. There is a shingles vaccine, but i dont know about the efficacy and my grandpa had shingles roughly around the same time as my sister was in grade school, and i remember him being grumpy but not "sick".

        However, shingles isn't contagious - that is, you can't give another cohort shingles. you can, however, give a youngster chickenpox, if they're susceptible or unvaccinated. Therefore, Gen X gets shafted, as we're less likely to vaccinate for these penny-ante viruses - see, because all the bad diseases were eradicated before we were born. Cowpox, Polio, etc. I don't even know that children today are given polio vaccines (pink liquid that you drink, iirc).

        So since you can only affect your cohort and unvaccinated people, i guess you get to suffer a few weeks of inscrutable itching and burning, and maybe by the time i'm 100 chickenpox (varicella?) is 'eradicated'.

        however now that i am taking the time to actually think about this, wouldn't one of my cohort getting shingles and being around me "inoculate" me, in the same way a child having chicken pox around me would? I honestly don't know, and while i could probably dig something up on scihub i'm not gunna and you can't make me.

        JWZ: <3

    • My brother had seizures for a decade after getting the chicken pox, requiring Dilantin, Tegretol, etc.

      I'm not sure their arguments balance out, particularly considering how speculation-based the increased adult cases argument is. I see the CDC says about a 0.2% hospitalization rate in healthy children, which seems like a lot for something a vaccination could eliminate.

    • MattyJ says:

      "Bring back polio." Interesting platform to stand on.

  2. I got chicken pox in 2002 as an adult. One of the single worst experiences of my life and I'm almost positive that I picked it up on a Muni bus, which may have been the second worst experience of my life.

    Oh how I wish I had known there was a vaccine at the time.

    • Elusis says:

      If you had a GP at the time, and they never assessed your history and recommended the vaccine, that's a serious oversight on their part, and borderline malpractice. How miserable for you.

  3. I had varicella and I'm under 40.
    I don't recommend not taking the vaccine to anyone.

    Also, "[...] the hysterical demands of radical liberal activists and union bosses [...]" sound scarily similar to what people here uses in my country as an alibi to push a lot of crap since the dawn of time. That's not a good omen.

  4. Eric says:

    My pediatrician scolded me for not getting chicken pox as a kid, and then one day she said "Well you didn't listen to me, and now there's a vaccine."

    So the lesson is sometimes you should... not listen to your doctor, I guess?

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